Jackie North on Wrestling With Characters

Thank you, Kim, for hosting me today. 

Kim asked me to talk about my writing process, which basically starts out with a purpose, gets messy in the middle, and then straightens out at the far end. That is to say, my characters tend to take over, even if I am very stern with them.

I reckon I’m not the only author to experience this delightful tension, where you are making up people (in your head!) and have clearly determined that they will be sweet or grumpy, violent or sweet, troubled or anxious, and so on. Only to find out that the grumpy one has a heart of butter, or the sweet one might look like a cinnamon bun on the outside, but will cut you if you cross the one he loves. 

That’s just the easy part, as it’s fun for an author to go on this voyage of discovering and to have amazing tidbits and texture develop out of a list of character attributes. 

The trouble starts when you decide that Character A and Character B will start having what I like to call “intimate relations” along about the 50% mark in your story. Only both characters, in their own ways, will announce to you that they most certainly will not have intimate relations yet, and only want to be holding hands at that point. They assure you the kissing part will occur later, but that’s much later than you had anticipated.

So where does that leave you, the author? You’ve got to scramble to keep up! You must come up with cute dinner dates for them to go on so they can bill and coo at each other over a shared desert of tiramisu at that Italian restaurant you sent them to. 

Or, in the case of Hot Chocolate Kisses, where you had so cleverly created a blizzard which would trap them together for days and days, one of your MC’s (in this case, Alex) determines that even though he’s suffering from a bullet wound, he’s far too proud and independent for any kind of help, and marches home, right after the blizzard, to his horrible, grotty, unheated apartment.  

You, as an author, can wave your arms about in befuddled confusion and astonishment, but that won’t change Alex’s mind one bit. You are the one who made him a transplanted Chicago hoodlum, after all, and he survived well enough on those mean streets long before you showed up, so he’s fine, thank you very much, just fine. And thus your cute little “trapped in a snowstorm/blizzard/cabin” trope morphs into something you had not anticipated at all

My rescue from this unforeseen state of affairs is that Alex gives in to his sister (Angela’s) pleading and goes, then, to stay at her condo on the south side of town. And luckily for the readers, Alex, in the process of going there, realizes he’s left his pain pills at Cory’s house. So the two (whew!) have another encounter, where Alex has to talk to Cory once more and,  somewhat abashed at his earlier rude behavior, asks Cory out on a date to the Holiday Dance. Kisses follow beneath the mistletoe hung in a corner at the dance, and the romance is saved! 

And that is how it works, every single time. My characters fall in love at their own pace, regardless of my planning, my carefully constructed outline, or my pleas and promised bribes. In the end, what I’m most concerned about is that readers enjoy the result, so it’s worth it to me to feel like I’m going a little crazy each time I write a book. 

All the best,

Jackie

Writes for love

Hot Chocolate Kisses

Alex had to leave the mean streets of Chicago in a hurry. Now he’s weathering his first Christmas in a small town in Colorado.

Cory had a boyfriend and now he doesn’t, which means the Christmas holiday is turning out to be the loneliest he’s had in years.

When they meet at a Holiday Fair, Alex finds himself being drawn into Cory’s world. A world where there is grace to be found in a simple, home-cooked meal, books read out loud by firelight, and the golden glow of welcome.

Alex has never wanted anything as tame as hearth and home. Now that he wants it, it’s not anything he can have. Nothing feels he deserves, at any rate.

Can Cory and the Spirit of Christmas Present prove to Alex that love is love?

An m/m romance with cakewalks, blizzards, hurt/comfort, a snow globe, hot chocolate kisses, and Christmas!

Although this book is part of A Snow Globe Christmas series, it is a complete stand alone and it isn’t a requirement that you read the previous books to follow along. We wish everyone a happy holiday season.

Buy Links
mybook.to/HotChocolateKisses

Excerpt

(This is the scene were Cory sees Alex, aka The Brute, for the second time.)

The feeling was the same as it had been the last time Cory had visited the Holiday Fair, a sense of good cheer and Christmas, a balm he let float over him as he made his way to the booth where the snow globes were sold. 

There was Angela again, her hair pulled in a dark ponytail, her green eyes smiling as she helped a young couple decide which snow globe they wanted, the one with Santa surfing through the snow or the one with three penguins skating figure eights on an iced pond in the snow. She wore the same striped apron that announced her as one of Santa’s elves, and the same name tag.

“Hey, Cory,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron as she turned to him. “How are you? Come to buy Christmas presents?”

Alas, he didn’t really have anyone to buy presents for. The feelings, sad, mournful, swam up inside of him, until it was almost impossible to tamp them down. But he nodded and smiled and did his best to appear upbeat.

“No presents,” he said, wincing as he heard his voice crack. “But I dropped the snow globe I bought yesterday, and have come for another.”

The expression on her face was full of sympathy and an eagerness to help.

“Oh, no,” she said. “That’s terrible! I’ll help you find another one.”

She gestured for him to come to the end of the table, to the case full of snow globes made of glass. Together they looked and, one by one, she pulled them out for him.

“Here’s one, would you like it?” she asked.

The castle in the snow globe reminded him of Hogwarts, but it wasn’t the little grey stone house he’d lost. He shook his head.

“How about this one? It’s an English pub, and look, they’ve painted the sign in gold. I think there’s even a little person you can see in the window.”

As she straightened up, she had a snow globe in hand. It was the wrongest possible snow globe, as much as he liked English pubs. Then he felt someone move behind him, close, too close.

“Hey, sis,” said a voice. “I got you lunch. Burritos, chips and queso, that salsa you like, and root beer, as ordered.”

Taking a step back, Cory turned to see the Brute, Alex, standing there, dressed in a used coat, a green parka that looked sturdy enough to protect him even if he were to hike across a northern tundra, his shoulders broad enough to block the light. His dark hair was messy, but he’d shaved and smelled nice, this close up. And, in his eyes was something that had not been present when Cory had last seen him at the dance, a brightness, a sense of lightness, as if some burden was gone.

About Jackie North

Jackie North has been writing stories since grade school and spent years absorbing the mainstream romances that she found at her local grocery store. Her dream was to someday leave her corporate day job behind and travel the world. She also wanted to put her English degree to good use and write romance novels, because for years she’s had a never-ending movie of made-up love stories in her head that simply wouldn’t leave her alone.

As fate would have it, she discovered m/m romance and decided that men falling in love with other men was exactly what she wanted to write books about. In this dazzling new world, she turned her grocery-store romance ideas around and is now putting them to paper as fast as her fingers can type. She creates characters who are a bit flawed and broken, who find themselves on the edge of society, and maybe a few who are a little bit lost, but who all deserve a happily ever after. (And she makes sure they get it!)

She likes long walks on the beach, the smell of lavender and rainstorms, and enjoys sleeping in on snowy mornings. She is especially fond of pizza and beer and, when time allows, long road trips with soda fountain drinks and rock and roll music. In her heart, there is peace to be found everywhere, but since in the real world this isn’t always true, Jackie writes for love.

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